I hope to keep this page as up to date as possible but let’s face it the industry changes constantly.
These are edited descriptions of bar reviews that have appeared on my blog posts. Only Sydney venues are listed here so that I can list any changes that you need to know as soon as possible.
416 King Street, Newtown, NSW 2042 – (02) 9557 7699
Bloodwood has the first spot on my list because it offers the best of both worlds – extreme beers and exciting wines. Sommelier Gabrielle Webster has great taste and has something new every time you visit, Australian and International biodynamic / organic wines or bottled beers from the likes of Epic and Mikkeller. Service is great, the staff are all well informed and clearly enjoy learning about the great booze on offer. I know some beery people think that it’s expensive, I say the products and service represent great value. As a Scotsman I’m an expert on this kind of thing. The food is well worth staying for if you want dinner or a good long lunch
The Local Taphouse
122 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010 – (02) 9360 0088
The best list of draft beer in Sydney with 20 constantly rotating taps makes the Taphouse unmissable for good beer lovers. I’ve been introduced to countless new breweries at the Taphouse and met many of the brewers. The rooftop garden is perfect in summer. The wine list is brief but more interesting than most pubs and they’ve just introduced a wide range of whisky. The monthly Ale Stars session is a must attend event, hosted by Darren ‘Doc’ Robinson from Doctors Orders Brewing
50 Hunter Street, Sydney, NSW
There is no doubting that Frankies is a cool place to be and I’m really not cool yet I still feel very comfortable there, more so than in either of the owners other bars – Shady Pines and the Baxter Inn. The front bar looks just like a dodgy pizza shop complete with red and white check table cloths. The back bar is dark and dingy with bill posters on the walls for (mainly) 1970s rock bands. The list of beers is fantastic with ten rotating taps and a very extensive list of bottles put together by Jordan McDonald from the Local Taphouse. Jordan is a pretty extreme guy and the beers on the list cover every extreme you can think of. You won’t give a damn that all the drinks are served in plastic tankards or that you lose track of time with no natural light.
Fix St James
111 Elizabeth Street, Sydney, 2000 – (02) 9232 2767
I try not to drink in the city but seem to find myself in Fix St James more than the rest of Sydney’s wine bars combined. There are some great sommeliers in Sydney and owner Stuart Knox with his signature red shoes is easily the most fun to be around. Fix is a bar and restaurant with some great food and a reputation for “natural” wines. Stu has become the go-to man for this style of minimal intervention wine, although I get the feeling that a large number of these wines hit his list simply because they taste interesting and exciting, rather than conforming to any particular philosophy. Most of the front of house team have been with Stu for a long time and share his passion for great “juice.” They ask what you are looking for and are able to recommend the perfect wine after just a couple of descriptors. There are a lot of wine events held at Fix during the year, the wine dinners are always great value. If you love interesting wines, great food and great service and are in the city, I’d recommend Fix St James.
417 Crown St, Surry Hills, 2010 – (02) 9319 6609
As small bars go, Yulli’s in Surry Hills is one of the most comfortable. It’s quite a surprise that a vegetarian restaurant has such a great line up of independent NSW beers but it’s great to see. They recently added an upstairs area which makes it much easier if you just want to sit and have a beer. In an interesting green initiative none of the products upstairs are bottled – there are 8 local draft beers along with draft NSW wine and local post mix soft drinks. It’s a great idea though I’m not too sure about the draft wine. Watch out as upstairs isn’t open every night which means that only four draft beers (along with lots of bottles) are available most weeknights and the more exciting (lower selling) beers don’t turnover as quickly as you would like. I’m not a vegetarian by a long shot but the food is also well worth searching out.
The Union Hotel
576 King Street, Newtown, 2042 – (02) 9557 2989
The Union is a rare beast in Sydney, a pub that has given almost all of it’s taps over to independent beers. I’ve been heading there for years now, it’s not too far from home and I’ve always enjoyed the food. They have been constantly but slowly improving the pub, first with a full refurb of the back bar into a very comfortable bistro area with a small beer garden, then introducing more and more good beers and recently new carpet in the front bar. I’ll always remember the week when smoking was banned in Sydney’s pubs. I walked into the front bar of the Union and all I could small was stale beer in the carpet instead of having smoke hiding the stench. They also installed a couple of English style handpumps for beer to serve real ales, mainly from the very local Young Henrys brewery. The bistro offers great value meals and the specials are restaurant quality, all washed down with great beer. Well worth visiting